Morris Louis - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, May 16, 2013 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    André Emmerich Gallery, New York
    Marcella Brenner, Washington DC
    Greenville County Museum of Art, Greenville, 1978
    Private Collection, New York
    Christie's, New York, Contemporary Art, May 12, 2010, lot 270
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    London, Hayward Gallery, Morris Louis, June 27 - September 1, 1974, then traveled to Düsseldorf, Städtische Kunsthalle (Septrember 27 – November 19, 1974), Humlebaek, Louisiana, Museum of Modern Art (January 18 1975 – February 13, 1975), Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts (February – April, 1975)

  • Literature

    D. Upright, Morris Louis: The Complete Paintings, New York, 1985, no. 295, p. 159 and 216 (illustrated)
    Morris Louis, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1986, p. 58 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    The lasting influence of the of Morris Louis’ brief but prolific career reverberates more intensely with each passing decade. His reputation as a pioneer of color-field painting was established as he eliminated the gestural brushstroke from his work; pouring diluted acrylic down the sides of an inclined, unprimed canvas. With this singular contribution to the history of painting, Louis was able to create works of lush and exuberant color. Roseate, 1960, is a paragon of his final years, where stark simplicity is at a crossroads with chromatic richness.

    Part of his Columns series, the present lot is comprised of only three bands of acrylic staining, bisecting Louis’ enormous canvas in perfect balance. The columns progress in saturation from right to left, first a gleaming blood-orange, then a deep crimson, before finally adopting a dark shade of burnt sepia. The title of the piece, Roseate, beautifully reflects an innocence that Morris disallows his colors, the delicacy of rose coloring eluding the sharper stains of his chromatic scheme. from its fascinating progression of hues, the present lot also gives us an illusion of depth in Louis’ fat surface—three isolated stairs seem to indicate that a simple gesture of a few related colors in tow can create multiple dimensions on a canvas. This was, after all, one of Morris Louis’ greatest achievements; as we see in Roseate, 1960, Louis’ use of color was only a jumping-of point for the mysterious qualities that follow.

  • Artist Biography

    Morris Louis

    Exceptionally prolific yet meticulous over the course of his all-too-brief career, Morris Louis cemented a status as one of the most important proponents of Color Field Painting and one of the leaders of the Washington Color School. Working with such figures as Kenneth Noland and Sam Gilliam, Louis pioneered a greatly simplified form of abstraction that served as a stylistic conduit between Abstract Expressionism and Minimalism. By pouring greatly thinned washes of paint over the surface of unprimed canvas, Louis alternately achieved luminous, cheerful ribbons of color and an eerie and ethereal effect, marked by the use of chance and the participation of atmospheric elements such as gravity in the creation of his paintings.

    Louis developed his mature style after a visit with Noland to the New York studio of Helen Frankenthaler at the suggestion of critic Clement Greenberg, where he learned of Frankenthaler’s innovative soak-stain technique. He used this method to pioneer no fewer than three major mature series that can be characterized by their atmospheric intensity, psychological presences, and crisp, pristine mellifluousness. Louis succumbed to lung cancer in 1962 and was honored the following year with a posthumous exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. He has been the subject of major retrospectives at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the High Museum, Atlanta, and the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.

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acrylic on canvas
82 1/4 x 105 1/4 in. (208.9 x 267.3 cm.)

$300,000 - 500,000 

Sold for $365,000

Contact Specialist
Zach Miner
Head of Sale
[email protected]
+1 212 940 1256

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York 16 May 2013 7pm